"Spreading the Disease" is the 2nd studio album by American thrash metal band, Anthrax. It was released in 1985 on Megaforce Records and produced by the band with Carl Canedy. The line-up for the album was Joey Belladonna (vocals), Scott Ian (guitar), Dan Spitz (guitar), Frank Bello (bass) and Charlie Benante (drums).
With the follow-up to the band's debut album "Fistful of Metal", New York City's Anthrax made two line-up changes. Gone went vocalist Neil Turbin, replaced with the now legendary Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna, and also out the door was bassist Dan Lilker with drummer Charlie Benante's nephew, Frank Bello, taking over. Is it any good? Let's find out!
This song begins the album with a heavy drum and guitar intro, before Dan Spitz throws in a quick-fire solo. The chorus is very heavy – even for a thrash metal band in the early 1980s! The song is about parental control over their children and it sends a message to the kids out there that they should have the right to choose for themselves. (A.I.R. is an acronym for Adolescence in Red)
This is the first song in which we really get a proper listen to what Frank Bello is capable on the bass. It is a song about Roland the Gunslinger from Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series of books. Guitarist Scott Ian is an avid horror fan, and it's said Stephen King is a fan of Anthrax, so the two go hand-in-hand. It is one of those tracks that wasn't given more than one take in the studio, and there's certainly a little too much rawness in there.
"Madhouse" is one of the better-known Anthrax songs, and a staple live anthem at any show the band does. It is packed with heavy riffing and wonderful drums, with Belladonna's vocals shining through. The song is about being sectioned, and it is often wondered if it's some sort of homage to the 1975 film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", which was brilliantly acted by Jack Nicholson. The band released a video for the song, which was subsequently banned by MTV for being over the top. Yet they allowed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and that featured people rising from their graves!
S.S.C. / Stand or Fail
Here is Dan Spitz's chance to shine, as he brings the track in shredding like he's Eddie Van Halen. It's another of those classic 1980s thrash metal songs, which works in some parts and doesn't in others. The chorus is an excellent piece of music, heavy and melodic at the same time, but the verses seem out of place on the song. It's about fighting in a war, where you either fight or die.
"The Enemy" is a somewhat controversial song about World War II, the Holocaust, and the deaths of many Jews at Auschwitz by the hands of Josef Mengele. However, it must be noted that Scott Ian has Jewish roots, so it probably is not a song to glorify what happened. Musically, it's one of those guitar chugging tracks which could almost be a ballad, although you'll not get anyone from Anthrax admitting to that.
Here we have another song about war, this time nuclear war. The track is rarely played live, but it's got that anthemic feel to it, and fans crave to hear this live. It's fast, it's heavy and it's pure aggression, which is something plenty of kids in the early 1980s wanted from the Big 4 of thrash metal (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax). Speaking of the Big 4, you can guarantee the other three bands heard this song and wished they'd wrote and recorded it. It's definitely one of the highlights of the album, and the furious outro is mind-blowing.
Armed and Dangerous
The song begins with an acoustic guitar melody and heart-felt vocals, but transcends into a crushing sound of metal which hits like a hammer. The song is about anger building up inside until you can't take it anymore and go nuclear. Belladonna hits all the right notes on the song, and Benante's drumming is some of the best heard on any Anthrax song.
This has one of the best thrash metal riffs in existence, which plays throughout the song. This would be the best song on the album if it wasn't for the iconic "Madhouse", but it still holds its own as an Anthrax classic, played live many times. The band may now wish they would have released it as a single, or at least made a video for it and given it to MTV. This song could possibly have gotten airplay.
We the album on a high note, with a full-on thrash metal attack. The drums are pounding heavier than any song previously, the guitars are being furiously played and the vocals are insane. This is one of the best endings to any thrash album and it's easy to say that if the band had made a couple more tracks like this, they'd have been bigger than what they were.
This album is a classic in the world of thrash metal. It is a classic because it's the now-legendary Anthrax line-up and because it cemented the band's place as one of the 'Big 4'. There are some very strong songs on the album, but there are some weak songs, too. Unfortunately for Anthrax, they couldn't find that balance - something which they would struggle to do throughout their career.
2. Lone Justice
4. S.S.C. / Stand or Fail
5. The Enemy
7. Armed and Dangerous